5. The Great Divorce – In this book, Lewis takes the reader on an allegorical journey of heaven and hell. Honestly, this is one of those books that makes me surprised Lewis is so popular in evangelical Christian circles. Were he living and writing today as a member of American evangelicalism, I suspect he would be highly criticized. That aside, this is a fantastic work of speculative fiction. Whatever you think about the afterlife, there is a lot here to ponder. This book also shows Lewis’ brilliance in that he combined a tremendous talent for storytelling as well as an astute mind. In other words, he did not just present his ideas in straightforward theology books but let them meander out in fascinating stories.
4. A Grief Observed – One of Lewis’ first books was The Problem of Pain. In it he tackled the age old challenges to faith of evil and suffering. Its not a bad book but it does not make my list because, helpful as such books are, they often appear separated from real life suffering. Lewis, as a veteran of the first world war, was certainly familiar with suffering. But I recall The Problem of Pain approaching the problem a bit too on the rationalistic side. What is fascinating is how one of Lewis’ last books attacks the problem. A lifelong bachelor, Lewis eventually married only to have his wife die of cancer. The short book, A Grief Observed, is his raw and emotional cry in response to this suffering. The rationalist presenting well thought out answers is gone in the face of a man nearing despair and questioning his faith. Lewis did not lose his faith of course, and this book is brilliant for its honesty.
3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Finally we get to the Narnia stories. I thought of just putting them at number one as a whole. As I write this, I wonder why I did not include The Last Battle or The Horse and His Boy in my top ten. But since I was a kid, Voyage of the Dawn Treader has been one of my favorite stories. It is the third Narnia story, the first without Peter and Susan. We meet Eustace who joins his cousins, Edmund and Lucy, on a voyage to the end of the world. I think there’s just something about quest stories that has always gripped me. Of course, there is some fantastic imagery I did not get as a kid which I find profound now.
2. Mere Christianity – It was probably sometime in college when I first learned that the author of my favorite fantasy series had written other books. This is Lewis’ most well-known work apart from Narnia and has become a classic of Christian apologetics. The last time I read it, I recall being surprised by how good it was. Some of the arguments are so familiar, and so often quoted, that they are also often criticized. And it is true that some of the arguments out of context are less convincing. For example, Lewis argues that Jesus must be either liar, lunatic or lord. But what about legend, maybe the stories in the gospels are far from what really happened? (I believe Lewis does address this in later essays since it was probably a critique even in his day.) So yes, its not a perfect book (the few pages when Lewis address male-female relationships are actually pretty bad). But it is a wonderful book and deserves its place at the top of Lewis’ works
1. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – What else could I put here? My love of Narnia dates back to discovering this book in my church library as a kid (as I noted in the first post). I was entranced as I read it during church, rather than listening to the sermon. At some point the allegory became apparent, seeing Aslan as Jesus. I recently read it to my oldest daughter and look forward to reading it to my son. I don’t necessarily want to say it was life-changing, but I think it was. Lewis loved stories and came to see the story of Jesus as the myth that became fact. So all the stories we love point to the true story of the world. For me, this book prepared me for a deeper understanding of the story of Jesus. Heck, maybe at some point it saved my faith. There have been times I wanted Aslan and Narnia to be real. That aside, it is a fantastic story. Thus its number one both because it is a great story and, personally, it changed my life.